Shackles – part 1

It is that most curious of times where the planets align and things fall in place. It’s now less than a year to the end of my current visa, I’ve been in Japan and wedlock long enough to try for that most ultimate of goals for the lifer: the permanent residency. Here then is part 1 of the post detailing the effort, the follow-up to come at some point in the future when the final verdict is delivered, some 8 or more months hence.

The process is relatively painless, and when I say painless I mean a pain in the backside. At its roots it is merely a formality of filling in some forms and handing over some papers, but getting those papers was quite a quest in itself, including family registers, tax forms, residency papers or proof, proof of employment, for all parties involved. The forms themselves contained the usual information I have handed over a dozen times already, plus more detailed family and work histories and whatnot and finally a postcard with my address which they can send me when they finally decide to accept me or boot me out. Either way I should know just in time before I need to apply for a new visa, or not, as the hope is.

Another lifer I know over here, whom shall remain nameless though he knows who he is, just recently received the okay. He had decided not to wait for the end of his visa but apply the very second he passed the required number of years of residency and marital coupling, which I believe has been reduced from 5 to 3 years (though don’t quote me on that). Considering he hasn’t been here quite as long as I, though not by much, and comes from a much lesser country of origin I doubt I’ll have many problems getting accepted. Touch wood, though. Maybe one of my forms has a spelling error or the secretary making the final decision has had a bad day and isn’t feeling magnanimous, anything can happen. Fingers crossed!

The benefits of permanent residency status are numerous and include the possibility of major bank loans, less hassle getting a credit card and, most of all, less time at the immigration office as you’ll never have to apply for visa extensions again. It’s not all piss and cakes, though, as I will still be required to purchase re-entry permits for leaving and returning to Japan for holidays and even the “unlimited” permit has an expiry time of three years. But purchasing those is quite easy, if onerous. And, not being Japanese or a diplomat I will, no matter what my status, have to hand over my fingerprints and mughsot when rentering the country like a common criminal.

The big joke is, of course, discussing this possibility with colleagues, to stress with extreme prejudice how the next step up, becoming nationalized Japanese, is unacceptable and a fate worse than death. They’ll laugh, but eventually realize you’re saying you would under no circumstances want to be one of them. Besides anything else, this is of course impossible anyway as you’ll never look like one of them and having a Japanese passport isn’t going to suddenly going to make you an accepted insider. Japan also requires you to denounce your original nationality, something, I have been told, the United Kingdom finds so hilarious as to ignore it. “Just tell them you did it and don’t tell us, we don’t care,” an embassy employee once told me. I think the requirement of changing your name to kanji was also recently scrapped, but even still, I have no interest in changing nationalities now. It means little enough as it is, being a fairly global citizen from a fairly globally spread family, but I’ll hang on to my Britishness for a while yet, I think.
(NOTE: Microsoft Word wants to correct “Britishness” to “Brutishness”. Ambrose Bierce would be proud!)

So, the long and short of it is: the application is in, the wait has started and the fingers are crossed. Should I fail, which is not so much unlikely as always a creeping possibility, I’ll just reapply again immediately until they relent. Look out for part 2 of this post at the end of the year, if you can be bothered.


  1. I wish you luck, naturally, and patience. Is it possible to achieve residency without marrying into the family, so to speak? I've always been curious.

  2. Cheers!

    You know, I have no idea if it'd be possible to get p.r. without marrying... I guess theoretically it should be, but you greatly increase your chances, and your standing in Japanese society, when there is a "real Japanese" involved. Personally I don't know of anyone getting this status without marriage but I'd be curious to know too.

  3. I'm sure your status at your workplace would have carried you through. They'd be lost without you, I have no doubt. Add a home-grown wife to the mix and you're a shoe-in!

  4. Best of luck with the application, JC. Doesnotequal already asked the very question on my mind. You may be interested to know that some legislators in this country (USA) are pushing for a revision of immigration and naturalization procedures. Basically, they're trying to make it more difficult to achieve citizenship through marriage or birth by illegal aliens. The issue of immigration here has become deeply politicized (and very ugly) since 9/11. Security fears and xenophobia are driving people to do and say some pretty terrible things, at least where I live.

  5. Thanks Michael. Yeah, I guess the whole world is turning a little more xenophobic every day. It's certainly a unique experience to be on the receiving end of it for a change. It makes you really think.

  6. "...and comes from a much lesser country"

    LOL! Yeah, you wish!

    I'll tell you what, it seems you're not particularly proud of being British, aren't you? You shouldn't try to dismiss other nationalities just to make yours look better because it really doesn't.

    By the way, being "lesser" has it advantages, you know? There are so very few of us in Japan that actually makes things a lot easier for me just because for them it's refreshing to see someone different for a change. On the other hand, when they see yet another British, the reaction is quite different. More in the line of: "Oh, another one... NEXT!"

  7. "Is it possible to achieve residency without marrying into the family, so to speak?"

    As far as I know, and don't quote me on this, it's about 10 years living in Japan if your neither married to a Japanese citizen or have Japanese family.

    Quite a long time if you'd ask me.

  8. I really, really enjoyed this. The humor works brilliantly, and the animation is much better than I had imagined. The way you have “blended” (hehe) it all together makes this look like a solid, whole product, as good as any Pixar short. Probably better. But then again: That’s my opinion.
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